When Suzy Prince wrote for us about her struggle for an amicable break, she never realised she’d become the poster girl for modern divorce.
In case you missed it first time round, I’ve recently been through a ridiculously amicable divorce. And I was both astonished and horrified when the time came to formalise things with the court to discover that in the UK there is currently no option for a ‘no-fault’ irreconcilable difference divorce, unless you’ve lived apart for two years, rising to five years if one party doesn’t agree.
I think that this is seriously bad news. Unless there’s been either adultery or desertion, your only option if you’re not prepared to put your life on hold for a further two years is to file for ‘unreasonable behaviour’ on the part of your spouse, citing specific examples of their misdemeanours. Joy.
Having to apportion blame causes unnecessary conflict and tension at exactly a time that you don’t need it. I felt as if I had to do something to raise awareness of this thorny issue. So I wrote a piece for Standard Issue about it.
It turned out that I’m not by any means the only person who feels this way. When the article was published I had contact from dozens of people, mostly on Twitter, saying that they couldn’t agree more, and telling (not always easy in 140 characters) their stories of having to wait, or having to work out what on earth to put down as unreasonable behaviour. Without exception, people think that the law surrounding divorce is totally outdated (as I pointed out a few weeks ago, not being allowed to divorce your partner for adultery if they’ve slept with somebody of the same sex, even if they’re in a same-sex marriage, is frankly bizarre).
Then an organisation called Resolution got in touch with me. Its membership consists of 6,500 family lawyers, 90 per cent of whom agree with my stance on this nonsense. It turned out that there was a lobbying day about this very issue due to take place in Parliament on 30 November. On that day, led by Resolution, 150 family lawyers and other professionals went to Parliament to meet with MPs and peers.
“Becoming the poster girl for the modern divorce is not exactly part of the great life plan, but this stuff needs to be sorted out, and soon.”
No-fault divorce was actually provided for in the 1996 Family Law Act, but was never brought into force. The measure was formally repealed in the Children and Families Act 2013.
Resolution’s renewed call for no-fault divorce is supported by the most senior family judge in the country, the deputy president of the Supreme Court; the Family Mediation Task Force and Relate. The topic was also the focus of a recent House of Commons Library briefing paper.
The campaigners believe that a no-fault divorce would reduce conflict and minimise pain and confusion: particularly where there are children concerned. No shit, Sherlock. Now they just need to have convinced some MPs, most of whom are terrified to touch this subject because of some bobbins about upholding family values and so on. And if they’ve succeeded, then the next step is to attempt to get the law changed, sharpish.
It’s been an interesting time for me; I ended up as a case study in an article for the Daily Telegraph on divorce (with possibly the most unflattering photo of me that I’ve ever seen) and turned down requests to be on the news and on breakfast TV, because while my ex-husband’s been an absolute superstar about all of this, we both felt that enough is enough in terms of personal exposure (although I’m making an exception here, of course).
Becoming the poster girl for the modern divorce is not exactly part of the great life plan, but this stuff needs to be sorted out, and soon. And I feel a real sense that I’ve done something positive in raising awareness of this.
My stance remains the same: nobody goes into a marriage thinking that it will end in divorce, but as that is the case for almost one in two marriages in the UK, it isn’t a bad idea to be aware of the issues surrounding the end of your union, just in case.
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Suzy Prince is a writer and editor, specialising in the fields of absolutely everything. She's currently writing a children's book, having had what could be the greatest idea of all time for a leading character. She's also a multitasking mama, who deserves a bloody big medal.